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shark_bait

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Deck Control
« on: June 14, 2011, 11:29:45 am »
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Deck Control

One very important aspect of dominion is deck control.  This involves knowing what cards you have in your deck, how many of them are left in your deck and where they located in your deck.  I know exactly what some people are going to be saying right now, so I’ll adress it immediately.  The deck is shuffled, how do I know where they are.  I’ll answer by stating the contrapositive.  You know where cards are located in your deck by knowing where they aren’t  (i.e. your discard pile).  So following this logic, as you get closer and closer to the reshuffle, you gain more and more control over your deck.  That is, assuming you have been keeping track of your deck.  This leads to my first big bullet point regarding deck control.

Know What Cards are Left in Your Deck

It is important that you always know what cards are in your deck at all times.  One thing that helps me keep track of my deck is by playing meticulously.  When  I play my cards, I make sure that I recognize which cards have been added to the discard pile and which are left in my deck.  If you can’t keep track of them all, then start by taking baby steps.  Have you seen your 5-cost action yet?  Out of your 3 golds, how many have you played?  Keeping track of your big-ticket cards is the first step to controlling your deck. 

Knowing your draw deck composition is important when playing cards that draw other cards.  If there are 5 cards left in your draw pile and you haven’t seen your montebank yet, please don’t play your smithy.  There are two things that are fundamentally wrong by playing that smithy.  First, you could draw your montebank this turn and be unable to play it due having no actions remaining.  The second fundamental flaw leads me to my second big (and very much related) bullet point.

Know When You Reshuffle

The reshuffle is a fundamental (albeit rather annoying when playing with the physical cards) aspect of dominion.  This aspect is displayed most prominantly through the chanceller by giving the option for triggering a reshuffle immediately.  This card provides one of the easiest ways to control your deck and it is important to use it correctly.  To use it correctly you must…. Know What Cards are Left in Your Deck (I told you these two points were related).  This allows you to have the best possible deck control.

There is one other way to trigger a reshuffle and this is what I will focus on.  You trigger a reshuffle by emptying your draw pile.  Manipulating when you reshuffle can be a game changing event if used correctly.  Consider the following two hypothetical hands in which 2 cards are left in the draw pile.

Hand 1 – Smithy, 3X Estate, Copper
Hand 2 – Smithy, 2X Gold, 2X Silver

I know this is a little exagerated, but it’s to prove a point.  In hand 1, you most certainly don’t want those estates and coppers back in your draw deck so you play the smithy to trigger the reshuffle before those cards are returned to the discard pile.  In hand 2, you want those cards back in your deck, so you don’t play the smithy. 

Let’s look back at the smithy/montebank example.  Let’s assume that you don’t draw your montebank with the smithy.  At the end of your clean up phase, you will draw the montebank, your montebank will miss the reshuffle because you need to reshuffle in order to draw the final 3 cards of your hand.

In either situation described above, you will play your montebank only once as opposed to twice if you chose not to play smithy.  With a card as powerful as montebank, playing it one more time could determine the outcome of the game.  In this case, you must think “one turn” ahead of the reshuffle in order to manipulate it to your advantage.  But to think “one turn” ahead, you must Know What Cards are Left in Your Deck in order to take advantage of this.

Sample Game

Consider the following isotropic example on a game I recently played.

http://councilroom.com/game?game_id=game-20110608-161945-80a3dff8.html#shark_bait-show-turn-3

On my 3rd turn, I opt not to play my warehouse because my deck would reshuffle before I could purchase my familiar.  Additionally, my potion is also in my draw deck again, which gives me another chance to purchase a familiar.

Conclusions

I hope this helped you think about dominion in a new way and I hope that the connection between knowing what cards are left in your deck and reshuffling was made clear.  Here are a few final bullet points to highlight the key points.

•Always keep track of the cards left in both draw and discard pile
•Any card that has a card drawing aspect can be used to manipulate a reshuffle.
       oThese include cards that don’t necessarily put them in your hand (Navigator, Scout, etc.)
•When possible, manipulate the reshuffle to play your “good” cards as much as possible and your “bad” cards as little as possible
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rod-

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Re: Deck Control
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2011, 11:50:31 am »
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I've long been wanting an opportunity to convince people to look into the win/loss rates based on which cards miss shuffles.  If your 2nd shuffle misses 2 estates, and your opponent's misses their 4-cost opener, you're well on your way to winning.  Similarly, if your potion or montebanc misses your second shuffle, more often than not you might as well resign. 
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joel88s

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Re: Deck Control
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2011, 12:12:27 pm »
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This is really interesting stuff. It might be worth stating clearly what is evidently the underlying point of your whole reshuffling discussion, which is: Cards that are in your hand or in play when you trigger a reshuffle mid-turn are omitted from that reshuffle, and will be lost for the next trip through the deck. I say this because while it's self-evident to you it took me a while to realize it, and comments like rod-'s suggest that it's more important even than I yet realize! I'd love to read more about this concept and see further examples of how it plays out or can be controlled.
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DStu

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Re: Deck Control
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2011, 12:14:11 pm »
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I think the (not!) triggering of the reshuffling is especially important when playing Actionchains with some discard-for-value (Minion, Warehouse, Cellar, Vault, Hamlet). When your chain really works and you get through your whole remaining Drawpile, but don't have a chance to also get through your discard pile, you better don't trigger the reshuffle. You would spend the next 1-2 turns with hands of all the crap you just discarded, mostly Estates, Coppers, maybe Curses, and without all the actions you just played.

For joel88s:
I first realized in the BSW.days playing some Minion+Lab+Festival engine that got very swingy. A very good draw followed by one or two veery bad draws. Guessed that it is exactly as described. Starting with a fresh deck, you play Minion(Discard 4xCrap) + some more actions + Minion (Discard NxCrap) + ... + Lab (reshuffle and draw 2 Cards (crap). That leaves you with 1-2 hands of crap on the draw pile and everything good in the discard.
Because of the small number of Cards on the BSW this combination is quite common there and taking care of the reshuffling really helped.

I think control in this case is really easy and does not even need for counting onces cards. You just have to take care that, when a big draw engine tends to get to its end one does not trigger reshuffling of a "large" discard pile but just don't play this actions. Large discard piles are often due to Discard-for-benefit, but of course can also be some bad draws at the beginning.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2011, 12:22:32 pm by DStu »
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theory

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Re: Deck Control
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2011, 12:16:51 pm »
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I think the (not!) triggering of the reshuffling is especially important when playing Actionchains with some discard-for-value (Minion, Warehouse, Cellar, Vault, Hamlet). When your chain really works and you get through your whole remaining Drawpile, but don't have a chance to also get through your discard pile, you better don't trigger the reshuffle. You would spend the next 1-2 turns with hands of all the crap you just discarded, mostly Estates, Coppers, maybe Curses, and without all the actions you just played.
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WanderingWinder

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Re: Deck Control
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2011, 12:20:26 pm »
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It's more difficult, but if you want to raise your game to an even higher level, you should keep track of what's left in your opponent's deck too. Almost all of the same points apply, but there's a little more uncertainty a) because you don't know what's in their hand right now, and b) because you don't know SOME of the cards that went into their pile (unplayed actions and treasure and VP point cards, generally). Of course, to limit your opponent's knowledge, it's basically strictly better to not play any treasure you aren't benefiting from because of this, but on isotropic this is just SO much slower.

joel88s

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Re: Deck Control
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2011, 12:27:05 pm »
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Another question that occurs to a less experienced player is how exactly you cultivate the skills you capsulize as 'playing meticulously'. Do you train yourself to remember the cards, or does the ability develop naturally with many games played? Do you create a mental map of your deck and check off the cards as they are played? And are you able to do it while continuing to play at the speed Isotropic games tend to go? (I know I am often frustrated that little time for thought seems to be tolerated, though that's a separate topic.) I know serious bridge players remember pretty much all the cards as they go by - a skill so daunting to those who can't do it - but I'm not sure if they could tell you how.
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DStu

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Re: Deck Control
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2011, 12:45:09 pm »
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Difficult question.
I think what you should do is just try to remember the important cards, as mentioned in the starting post. "Where is my witch?" "How many Gold where played?" Most of this questions also kind of answer by: "What have I done the last two turns?". That's I think where one should start. This cards should also be quite easy to remember as they are the interesting ones. If I start Mountebank/Moat and my Mounteback is not in the first 10 Cards I realize that. Just because I see my Mountebank missing a shuffle. For this it's the most important to realize that there was a reshuffling, then everything boils down to small pieces of 2-3 hands for most of the game.

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shark_bait

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Re: Deck Control
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2011, 01:36:08 pm »
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Cards that are in your hand or in play when you trigger a reshuffle mid-turn are omitted from that reshuffle, and will be lost for the next trip through the deck.

Thanks for bringing that up.  That is definitely stated more clearly than I originally wrote things out.

Another question that occurs to a less experienced player is how exactly you cultivate the skills you capsulize as 'playing meticulously'. Do you train yourself to remember the cards, or does the ability develop naturally with many games played? Do you create a mental map of your deck and check off the cards as they are played? And are you able to do it while continuing to play at the speed Isotropic games tend to go?

In regard to those questions, the simple answer is that practice makes perfect.  Play more games of dominion where you try to remember what cards have been played.  It's possible to do on isotropic, but it is more difficult.  DSTu makes a great point in regard to thinking about your last two turns.  However, once you get your deck to the point where you have >5 hands per reshuffle, you can't just think about the last two turns.  When this happens, I would recommend at the very least, keep track of the good stuff as you place it in your discard pile.  You can't really teach someone how to memorize cards, it's just something that you acquire with time and a sharp mind.
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drg

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Re: Deck Control
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2011, 07:15:44 pm »
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Minion is the most obvious card this is really important with.  If you play all your minions and keep reshuffling, you will have nothing left but crap to draw on your next hand.  Also, if you've played the 1 or 2 most important cards in your deck this turn, you may want to lay off that last great hall or pearl diver, maybe even a lab if it's going to trigger a reshuffle, because the extra card or two now may not be worth not reshuffling all you've played this turn. 

Chaining vaults is also another really important thing to keep exact track of what you can draw, as if you keep dropping your estates, provinces, etc, you don't want to shuffle them up and not draw them all, or they will be in your next hand for sure.
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Jack Rudd

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Re: Deck Control
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2011, 08:09:35 pm »
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I know serious bridge players remember pretty much all the cards as they go by - a skill so daunting to those who can't do it - but I'm not sure if they could tell you how.
An occasional bridge player writes: I tend to try to track how many cards in a suit have been played, and whether the big cards have gone. So, for example, if I have A-K-Q-x-x of hearts and my partner has x-x-x (where x refers to a small card; its exact value is not relevant), I can test the suit by playing the Ace and King. If both opponents follow to both rounds, I know that four enemy cards have gone, I started with eight, and so there's just one left of the original thirteen - which I can capture with my queen, promoting my two small hearts to winners. In such a situation, I'd probably be able to tell you that the hearts split 3-2, but I wouldn't be able to say which opponent had played which heart.
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Re: Deck Control
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2011, 11:11:49 pm »
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One trick I use to assist with treasure tracking is to think back on what I've bought since the shuffle. It's pretty easy to remember how many estates and coppers I have left if I bought a province (gold, gold copper, copper, estate), and a Lab (silver, copper, copper, copper, estate) since the last shuffle.

It sounds complicated when I write it out, but it works for me.

I can honestly say I hadn't thought about the importance of potentially delaying shuffles with Vaults in particular. It's worth noting that with a single Vault the draw will trigger the reshuffle before you discard, which can actually help by keeping those estates and coppers out.
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papaHav

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Re: Deck Control
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2011, 01:36:30 am »
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Warehouse/cellar give you large amounts of control here.

The easiest way to explain this concept is with treasuremap hunting.
Don't play the warehouse if theres exactly 2 blanks left in your deck!
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Re: Deck Control
« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2011, 09:21:31 am »
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There is a really straightforward way to keep perfect track of what cards you have played so far: write it down.


I would encourage people to allow notetaking within reason even in irl Dominion, but on Isotropic it's trivial -- just copy/paste your hand and each card you draw into a text file.


It's fiddly and annoying, and I certainly don't do it often, but when Wishing Wells are around, or in really tense endgame situations where you need to make sure you only draw cards when it's the right thing to do, there's simply no substitute.


Now that we have the irritating truncated log, just copy/pasting each turn into a text file and making the log yourself isn't a half-bad idea, though I've not bothered yet.
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